October 31, 2008

Expedited Amtrak Study Sought

Letter urges quick action to restore Idaho, Oregon rail service

Washington, DC - Five members of the Idaho and Oregon Congressional Delegations have written the President and CEO of Amtrak requesting he expedite a study on the return of passenger rail service though Oregon, Idaho and points east. The study, inserted into an Amtrak spending bill by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), was the subject of the letter signed by Crapo, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Representatives Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Greg Walden (R-Oregon).

"We have heard from families in our states who have been waiting more than a decade for rail service to return," the delegation members wrote in the letter sent today to Amtrak's Alex Kummant. "Recent sharp increases in Amtrak ridership show that more and more people are turning to intercity rail for transportation.. We believe that there is substantial interest in reinstating the Pioneer Route in our states and returning this economic and transportation network to our communities and neighborhoods."

Nationally, Amtrak ridership is up this year compared with last year. The increases were 13.9% in July, 10.5% in August and 9.7% for September over last year. For the fiscal year, ridership is up 11.1% over last year. Crapo and Wyden originally requested Amtrak to begin studying the return of the Pioneer Route back in 1999. The route served cities in Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming before it was discontinued in 1997.

"For many rural northwesterners, this route represented the only major intercity transportation link to the rest of the country," the letter noted. In a letter to Crapo, Kummant pledged to personally visit Idaho to assess the return of passenger rail service if Congress passed the Amtrak funding bill.

"I will make it a personal priority of mine to visit your home state and learn firsthand of the opportunities that exist in Idaho and other western states for expanded intercity passenger rail service," Kummant wrote in his letter to Crapo. The Amtrak reauthorization legislation containing the amendment for a Pioneer Route study authorizes $13 billion over five years for passenger rail with a new emphasis on intercity and high speed rail programs. It was passed by the Congress and signed into law earlier this month.